Welcome to another year of the Yetisburg Address, where we look back on the week that was in Kings basketball. The Kings started off 1-3, with the first two games being much better than the last two. Sacramento’s youth is showing flashes however, and overall it’s been pretty fun to watch.
The High Post
Coming into the season, I think there was a lot of worry about how Dave Joerger would handle the vets and the rookies in terms of playing time. Joerger has a reputation as being very veteran friendly while making young guys earn it.
I’d say through the first four games of the year he’s doing a decent job of mixing it up. He’s inserted Justin Jackson into the starting lineup (a surprising choice that I’m not sure will last). The only player on a non-rookie contract in the top five minutes per game is George Hill, which makes sense since the team gave him $20 million a year.
Sure, there are some adjustments I’d make (like putting Skal in the starting lineup over Zach Randolph on a permanent basis) but overall I haven’t had a ton of complaints about the time the young guys are getting, especially this early in the season. I expect that we’ll see that time grow as the season goes on and the team becomes more comfortable with each other (this is an almost entirely new team from last season) and the young guys start to find more of a rhythm.
The Low Post
The downside of youth and huge roster overhaul is that this team is struggling to score consistently. The defense hasn’t actually been too bad, but the offense is still figuring things out. One area where the team has really struggled is getting to the line. Before Monday’s game against the Suns, the Kings were dead last in the league in Free Throw Attempt rate, and even after shooting 29 against Phoenix, they only jumped one spot. The Kings need to find a way to get to the line more, and guys like Fox, Hill, Bogdanovic, Buddy and Skal should continue to be aggressive in attacking the basket.
The Kings have also been surprisingly slow for a team filled with so much youth. Sacramento currently ranks 29th in Pace. Some of that is probably Joerger trying to teach the young guys the system and the fact there isn’t really a go-to guy. The Kings take a lot of time to get into their sets and they haven’t been getting the easiest shots as a result. Joerger said he wanted to try to speed things up this year, but so far it’s been slow and steady. Hopefully that changes as the year goes on. Consider this first month or so a kind of extended training camp.
The View From Section 214
The year was 1990. In a piece of foretelling history, “The Never-Ending Story – The Next Chapter” hit theaters (why would a never-ending story have chapters?!?). The Kings were to embark upon their season on November 2. A day later, Vanilla Ice would top the charts with “Ice Ice Baby.” We should have seen all of this coming.
1990 was also the year that the Kings drafted Lionel Simmons (7th), Travis Mays (14th), Duane Causwell (18th) and Anthony Bonner (23rd). There were other players that graced the roster with two or fewer years of NBA experience: Jim Les, Anthony Frederick, Mike Higgins, Ricky Calloway, Mike Higgins, and the venerable Eric Leckner. Hope sprang eternal, as Kings fans prepared for a season of growth under head coach Dick Motta.
(Long record scratch)
Yeah, Dick Motta was milk on a hot day that season. A bad choice for a team filled with so much youth and so little experience.
That notwithstanding, it was a glorious year of downs and downs and ups and downs and downs and downs and ups and downs and downs and downs and downs. Simmons, Mays and Causwell all cracked the top five in minutes (along with Antoine Carr and Rory Sparrow. The team’s first win of the season came at home, eight games into the season. Their second win came after six more losses. There were three three-game winning streaks during the season, and five losing streaks of five or more, including a nine-game streak in February with an average point differential of -15.37.
And it was…sort of glorious. A year after the Pervis Ellison debacle, here was a team of youth and promise. Wins and losses (and losses…and losses) were overlooked by fans that were more focused on the incremental growth of Simmons, Mays, Causwell and Bonner. This was a group that was going to grow with the City of Sacramento, and do its new arena proud.
It would be five more seasons before the Kings made the playoffs. Causwell was eighth on the team in minutes for that team, Simmons eleventh. The other eight youngsters were gone.
You’re either contending for an NBA title or you’re not in today’s NBA, and if you’re not, a fan needs something else to grab onto. And in that respect, the 2017-18 Kings have been incredibly benevolent. Five rookies (including Bogdan Bogdanovic). Five second-year men (remembering that Jack Cooley did log sixteen NBA games last year). If you want to include JaKarr Sampson, there are two third-year players. That’s twelve – TWELVE!!! – players with two or less years of NBA experience coming into this season. Eleven of them are 25 or younger. Three of them cannot legally drink. Only Vince Carter was born before I graduated high school, and seven of them were born after my oldest daughter. It is the perfect storm of the roster being very young, and me being very old.
At the time of this writing, the Kings are 3.7% through its season. They are on a pace to finish 24-58, a game behind the 1990-91 team, but a game ahead of my 23-59 prediction. And none of that matters, because win, lose or crap-all-over-themselves, this team has still been fun to watch. Competed the first night, won(!) the next night, and hey, De-Aaron Fox and Skal Labissiere were OK in the Denver game.
This is a season of exploration, a year of great unknowns. The season will be digested in the macro and not the micro, with determinations to be made well after fifty games. But our opinions as fans will change by the game and by the performance. There will be times when Buddy Hield looks like the future shooting guard of this team, and times when Bogdan Bogdanovic will look like the better option. And Malachi Richardson will rear his head just often enough to enter the conversation every now and then as well.
Frank Mason will deserve more time until he doesn’t, and George Hill will split time as a Godsend / the cholesterol in the arteries of the development of De’Aaron Fox. Justin Jackson will be a nice / waste of a pick. Willie Cauley-Stein will have finally figured things out..wait, no he has not…wait, yes he has!...wait…
There will be team Buddy, and there will team Bogdan, and we will hope that it turns out better than Omri Casspi vs. Donté Greene.
Some of us will yearn for Harry Giles, and yes, some of us will even yearn for Georgios Papagiannis (Greek Freak 3.0!). And many of us will wonder what in the hell Zach Randolph is doing here.
Youth will be served, and experience will be given its due (sometimes to a maddening extent).
But my goodness, it promises to be a helluva ride. 82 games of developmental basketball. The historical data suggests that most of these guys will break your heart, and that we will be fortunate if one or two of these guys are core rotation players the next time that the Kings take the floor in the post-season. But you know what? Screw the historical data, right? What would the historical data have said about the Giants winning the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014? What would the historical data have said about a new arena being built in downtown Sacramento? What would the historical data have said about me getting married not once, but twice?
This team is going to be more bad than good this year, more awful than awesome, more head-scratching than head-turning. But there will be flashes. At times it may seem like an illusion, and you will have to back the DVR up and play it again, just to make sure that you actually saw what you thought you saw. It’s going to be something that we have not seen around here in a long time.
Next game, please. Simmons, Mays, Causwell and Bonner. Labissiere, Fox, Cauley-Stein and Hield. Carr and Sparrow. Hill and Temple. Less Bill Wennington / Zach Randolph, if you don’t mind. I won’t sweat the losses, and I’ll savor the wins.
Ice Ice, Baby.
Kimani’s Photo of the Week
Highlight of the Week
Player of the Week
15.0 PPG, .456 FG%, .400 3P%, 5.0 AST, 5.0 REB, 1.0 STL in 27.3 MPG
Through four games, De’Aaron Fox has been Sacramento’s best player and he hasn’t even started a game yet. I know we were hoping for great things from the Kings rookie, but he’s taken to the NBA much quicker than I expected. On a team with few creators, Fox is proving to be able to create for both himself and for others. With his speed, he’s able to get to the rim or free for a jumper whenever he wants. I’m also loving his effort on the defensive end. This kid has the chance to be really special and I’ve been very impressed with him so far.
Thursday, Oct. 26th vs. New Orleans Pelicans
Sunday, Oct. 29th vs. Washington Wizards